Win or Go Home for Blue & Gold

Aug. 23, 2020 - Nate McMillan, Victor Oladipo, and Justin Holiday discuss the team's mentality heading into Game 4.

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Win or Go Home for Blue & Gold

Aug. 23, 2020 - Nate McMillan, Victor Oladipo, and Justin Holiday discuss the team's mentality heading into Game 4.
Aug 23, 2020  |  02:09

Pacers Hopeful Second Half Effort Can Carry Over

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

It can be hard to summon hope when you're down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, but the Pacers appear to have found at least a glimmer of optimism heading into Game 4.

If Game 3 had ended at halftime, it would have been a much different story. The Heat dominated Indiana over the first two quarters on Saturday, hitting 11 3-pointers and racing out to a commanding 74-56 lead.

But something clicked for the Pacers at halftime. They came out with a different energy in the third quarter, attacking mismatches on offense, and stringing together defensive stops as Miami finally started to miss.

The end result was a 34-20 quarter. The Blue & Gold then stayed within striking distance for most of the fourth quarter, twice cutting the deficit to two, but couldn't quite get over the hump.

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The result was disappointing, but the Pacers also came away feeling like they finally figured something out in the second half.

"We came out playing like we believed and like we wanted that game," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said following Sunday's practice. "That was the difference."

"We just played with more of a sense of urgency," added Victor Oladipo. "...We need to play like that for 48 minutes. We've just got to be ready for tomorrow, bring that mindset, and then everything will take care of itself."

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No one has revealed the specifics of what was said at halftime on Saturday, but it's clear that both the players and coaches expected a better effort. Oladipo said after Game 3 that the team knew they could "either make something happen or get embarrassed," and they had too much pride to let the latter happen.

"I just think we came in and decided what we needed to do," Pacers forward Justin Holiday said Saturday. "And that was to be together and get stops. It wasn't big adjustments. We didn't make any adjustments as far as what we were doing scheme-wise. It was as far as how we were going to be connected and go out there as a team.

"That alone showed a huge difference in the second half."

Now the question becomes how the Pacers can replicate that second-half performance for the entirety of Game 4.

One point of emphasis will be keeping the Heat off the free throw line. Miami attempted 52 foul shots on Saturday, 24 more than Indiana. Eight of those attempts came with the Pacers intentionally fouling in the final minute, but it still was a large discrepancy.

The Pacers were whistled for fouls on a 3-point shot three times in the first half in Game 3 and on another occasion were called for a foul away from the ball as Tyler Herro hit a 3-point shot.

"They're being more aggressive," Holiday said. "They were aggressors from the jump. They set the tone from the rip. Period. And when you do that the refs go with that and give you the calls."

Heat All-Star forward Jimmy Butler alone went 17-for-20 from the charity stripe and has attempted 40 free throws over the first three games of the series. That's not exactly shocking considering Butler averaged the fifth-most free throw attempts per game in the NBA during the regular season (9.1), but he is getting to the line more than the Pacers would like.

"We know Jimmy...a move for him is getting to the line," Holiday said. "It's what he does...We have to understand that, try to stay between all those guys and the basket."

The other hurdle Indiana will have to overcome in Game 4 will be mental. The Pacers have had a chance to win all three games so far in the series in the fourth quarter, but have been unable to make a run.

The Heat have strung together stops and timely baskets down the stretch, relying heavily on their veteran duo of Butler and 34-year-old point guard Goran Dragic.

"They just do a really good job of settling down and understanding time, score, and situation," McMillan said. "We made a run (in Game 3) that was to get within four, two points a couple times in that fourth quarter and they didn't panic.

"They stayed the course with what they needed to do, they executed their offense, and they made plays down the stretch, which is what you have to do to win games."

But more than anything, Game 4 will be about desire. How badly do the Pacers want to keep their season alive?

"We've just got to keep going and play through adversity and keep playing hard, playing for one another," Oladipo said.

"It's win or go home. Nothing else really matters."

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